About Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction surgery is a procedure performed to restore the chest to a normal appearance in shape and size after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. It is also an option to restore a breast damaged by trauma or a birth defect. New techniques in breast reconstruction surgery make it possible for women to feel complete and attain natural-looking breasts even after they have been removed. This surgery can include a few procedures and various stages that can either be performed at the same time as the patient's cancer treatment or delayed until a later date. Houston, TX plastic surgeon Dr. Phi P. Nguyen creates an individualized treatment plan and uses a compassionate approach as he works with patients to restore their appearance and confidence at MIA Plastic Surgery.
Breast reconstruction is a very personalized procedure. Every patient will have a thorough consultation with Dr. Phi to create their treatment plan based on their needs, concerns, and appropriate options. If you are planning to have breast reconstruction surgery, it is vital that you are able to emotionally cope with treatment and have realistic expectations. While Dr. Phi strives to create a natural appearance, your newly reconstructed breast(s) will not have the same look, sensations, or feel as your original breast(s). You should get approval from your oncology doctor to have surgery and tell Dr. Phi about any other factors that could impact healing.
Plan Your Procedure
There are a variety of techniques available today for breast reconstruction. There are many factors that Dr. Phi considers when helping you determine the technique that will produce your best results. Some of these factors include cancer diagnosis, reconstruction timing, whether the patient will use natural tissue or implants, and if nipple-sparing or nipple reconstruction is a part of the process. In order to rebuild the breast, there must be enough tissue to adequately cover the breast mound. Flap procedures accomplish this by using your own muscle, fat, and skin to create, cover, and build the mound. The most common flap techniques are:
- TRAM Flap
This method uses skin, fat, and muscle from your stomach to create the breast. The tissue used to create the new breast can be detached from the abdomen or it may remain attached to the donor location keeping the original blood supply.
- Latissimus Dorsi Flap
This method uses muscle, skin, and fat from your back. During this procedure, tissue is moved from the back to the mastectomy site through a surgically created tunnel and remains attached to the donor location, which leaves the original blood supply intact.
- PAP Flap
Another flap alternative is the PAP flap (profunda artery perforator). This technique takes skin, fat, and muscle tissue from your inner thigh to create your breast(s).
- LTP Flap
While the TRAM flap tends to be one of the more common methods used during reconstruction, sometimes there is not enough muscle, skin, and fat tissue that can be taken from the abdominal area. In these situations, the LTP flap may be used, which takes tissue from the lateral thigh area.
- Composite Flap
Also known as a composite stacked flap, this method combines flaps from different areas on your body to reconstruct the breast.
While flap procedures are usually successful and a common method used in breast reconstruction, you may be able to rebuild your breast(s) with tissue expansion. This involves placing a tissue expander under the breast wall and then slowly filling it with saline over the course of 4 – 6 months until the skin is properly stretched. Whether a flap has been created or the skin stretched through an expander, you can then decide whether you want to use a natural fat transfer or breast implants to create the volume and shape of the breast(s). After your breast reconstruction surgery, you may want to improve the appearance of your reconstructed breast(s) with nipple and areola reconstruction. There are numerous options to restore the nipple-areola complex so that it looks more attractive.
What to Expect
Breast reconstruction surgery is performed in various stages. During certain phases (such as creating a flap, inserting an expander or implants), general anesthesia is often used. Some patients will require an overnight stay, which is dependent on the current phase of treatment. Once the final step has been completed in the breast reconstruction process, you will wear a compression garment for the chest and you will be given medication to control bleeding, swelling, and discomfort. Over time, the breast(s) will begin to look normal so you can feel more confident. Ongoing monitoring with mammograms and breast exams are important and recommended for long- term health.
Reclaim your self-confidence
While the breast reconstruction process can be lengthy, it is considered one of the most worthwhile cosmetic surgeries for our Houston, TX patients at MIA Plastic Surgery. It can help to decrease the emotional and physical impact of mastectomy while also allowing you to boost your self-confidence and figure. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, have been impacted by a trauma to the chest, or were born with a defect that affects the shape of your breasts, we invite you to call our Houston, TX office and schedule your consultation with Dr. Phi P. Nguyen.